Tuesday, December 24, 2019

S-P-A-C-E-D (fiction

Joel was 100% convinced that Torvaldsen was from a different universe.

Torvaldsen called three, mandatory, daily meetings six days a week. The first was at 8:30AM, the second was at 1:00PM and the third was at 7:00PM. Every meeting had the same agenda, review of management metrics and the handing out of new assignments.

Twenty managers were required to attend the meeting. Each person reported-out his metrics in-turn.

  • Security: Number of neighborhood tours made of the neighborhood versus the weekly rate. Items found.
  • People: Number of people absent from work. Actions taken to address the concern.
  • Audits: Number of audits performed to verify conformance to metrics, which in Joel’s case included the number of kilograms of grain delivered to the correct address from the warehouses he was accountable for managing.
  • Cost: Resources consumed and equipment destroyed
  • Environment: Number of pounds of carbon generated and waste-water released
  • Diversity: The current number and percentage of work-force of African-Americans, Native-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Middle-Eastern-Americans, Gay Men, Lesbian Women, Bi-Sexual men/women, Trans-Sexuals. Every manager was required to have at least one example of each on his/her roster.

Joel was required to send in his information via a vast, interconnected spreadsheet before the meeting so Torvaldsen’s minions could review and consolidate the data for Torvaldsen’s "dashboard".

Joel was also required to bring a hand-colored tracking sheets to “make it visual” and to use as a presentation aid during his five-minute presentation. When Joel pointed out that even HE knew how make arts-and-charts on the spreadsheet he was shut-down by Richards, Joel's immediate supervisor. “Torvaldsen believes that your hand-coloring the data into the chart will help you keep the data foremost in your mind."

Joel’s warehouse was a mile from where the meeting was held. It took him twenty minutes to walk the distance. He never rode. His job was not considered important enough to rate transportation.

He spent a minimum of 4.5 hours a day in meetings and another two hours walking to-and-from them.

He pointed out to Mark Richards, his Sector Lead, that he did not have enough time to do his job. Richards said “Stop whining. To Measure-and-Report is to manage. Everybody knows that is the foundation of Scientific Management. If you are not able to do your job it is because you failing to properly M&R.”

"...M&R" came out sounding like M-N-R and then Joel realized he had been hearing that acronym without ceasing ever since he had been "called up" to management. He had worked fifteen years for the Livingston County Road Commission as a clerk and had never heard it before. Now, it was like elevator music. Made him want to barf.

The first time he had been called to one of Torvaldsen’s meetings, he had been curious about the clear, plastic peanut butter jar in the middle of the table the men and women were standing around. It appeared to have a small animal floating in it...presumably in alcohol.

Joel did not have to wait long to learn what it was about.

One of the other new managers did not have his arts-and-charts completely up-to-date. It did not go well for him.

“That is the back-end of a rat" Torvaldsen said, pointing at the jar. "That is what I DON’T give for excuses. I don’t give a rat’s ass for any excuse for not getting your job done.” Torvaldsen said.

The person who did not have all the appropriate little squares and pie-wedges colored in was replaced by the next meeting. Joel learned later that unfortunate manager's entire family had been stricken from the food assistance rolls.

Joel came close to panicking. "Mr. Richards, I am doing my best but it takes me at least fourteen hours to do my standardized work. I just can't keep up." Standardized work was the list of tasks each supervisor was required to do each day. Like many bureaucratic lists, there was a robust mechanism to add tasks but no mechanism to remove tasks.

In fact, it was worse than Joel reported. Every day he found more procedures that told him EXACTLY how he was required to execute each task and subtask. The explicit instructions invariably doubled or tripled the time required to execute each task. If trends continued, he would need more than 28 hours a day to execute what Torvaldsen considered the bare minimum requirements of his job.

Joel had an extended family. He could not afford to get purged from the food distribution rolls.

Richards' look was withering. "You are a boss. Have your people do it."

Joel's brain locked up in bafflement. "You mean have the people I am auditing perform the audits?"

"Got it in one, genius." Richards said.

Joel saw a hundred reasons why that would not work, the primary reason being human nature. Joel was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he saw that he had already used up all of Richards' patience and knew not to push.

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